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Amidst Controversy, President Distributed 65th National Film Awards

Irani also hailed the noticeable presence of regional cinema and talent and also drew attention to how over 20 women were honoured at the stage.

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Iconic actress Sridevi was posthumously honoured at the 71st Cannes Film Festival. Filmmaker Subhash Ghai, who received the award on her behalf, says he felt honoured.
Sridevi gotthe TITAN Reginald F. Lewis Film Icon Award at 71st Cannes Film Festival. Wikimedia commons

Controversy marred the 65th National Film Awards ceremony here on Thursday with several awardees protesting against the whittling down of the number of those to be honoured by the President to a select 11.

Upset over breaking from the long-held tradition of the President giving away all the awards, around 60 awardees wrote to the Directorate of Film Festivals, President’s office and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, over the “discrimination”.

The name plates of the absentee winners were placed facing down at the Vigyan Bhawan, where several others from across the length and breadth of the country congregated to celebrate the diversity of India and Indian cinema.

Celebrated names like K.J. Yesudas and A.R. Rahman, apart from actors Riddhi Sen, Divya Dutta and Pankaj Tripathi and a host of others attended the gala.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore handed out the remainder of the 125 awards at the event, which was also devoid of a musical performance unlike every year.

Another posthumous honour went to Sridevi, whose powerful performance in her last film "Mom" fetched her the Best Actress Award. Her husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters -- Jahnvi and Khushi -- took the stage together to receive what was Sridevi's first National Award in a career of 50 years.
Boney Kapoor and daughter receiving Sridevi’s award from President, BollywoodCountry

The prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award — the country’s highest cinema honour — was given posthumously to Vinod Khanna, whose wife Kavita Khanna and son Akshaye Khanna received it. It was an “emotional and proud moment,” Akshaye said.

Another posthumous honour went to Sridevi, whose powerful performance in her last film “Mom” fetched her the Best Actress Award. Her husband Boney Kapoor and two daughters — Jahnvi and Khushi — took the stage together to receive what was Sridevi’s first National Award in a career of 50 years.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who joined the ceremony in the latter half, said: “We will miss them forever… More than just box office successes, they tugged at our hearts and captured our emotions.”

He said India’s strength lies in its diversity, and cinema celebrates it by having a unifying voice which transcends regions. He spoke about the “transformational times for cinema” and how “India is gaining traction as a filmmaking destination”.

Irani also hailed the noticeable presence of regional cinema and talent and also drew attention to how over 20 women were honoured at the stage.

All the officials who took to the mike thanked the President for his presence. However, the question many were left with after this edition of the ceremony, is why all the winners were not felicitated by the President.

In the letter, the protesting awardees said they felt “dejected rather than honoured” for their work.

It was on Wednesday that the awardees were informed that a large segment of the awards will not be presented by the President. They discussed the matter with Irani the same evening and were promised a reply.

"...We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us."
Smriti Irani, Information and Broadcasting Minister- wikimedia commons

“In the circumstance of not receiving a response for our grievance, we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award, but are not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent…

“It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol, fails to inform of such a vital aspect of the ceremony with prior notice. It seems unfortunate that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy.

“…We are disheartened to know that we will be deprived of the honour of this appreciation of a once-in-a-lifetime moment of pride and glory that the National Film Awards had promised us.”

Also Read: Akshay Talks About Building a ‘Society’ 

The President handed over the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, Nargis Dutt Award for Feature Films on National Integration, Best Book on Cinema, Best Direction (non-feature film), Best Jasari Film, Best Male Playback Singer, Best Music Direction (songs and background music), Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Direction (feature film), Best Feature Film and Best Editing.

Singer Shashaa Tirupati felt “terribly disrespected”.

Shashaa, who bagged the Best Female Playback Singer for “Vaan varuvaan” from “Kaatru Veliyidai”, told IANS: “It’s like the thrill of it is gone now… National Awards and the President go hand-in-hand. For 64 years, they have been given by the President. When you speak of the National Award, automatically people visualise the President handing over the award to the recipient.”

Riddhi Sen, the Best Actor winner for the film “Nagarkirtan”, received the honour from the President. But he found the decision for others unfair.

“This is discrimination and this is absolutely unfair.” (BollywoodCountry)

 

Next Story

Calm Settles Over Congo After Election Result

Congo, a country of 80 million people is moving closer to its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power

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Congo, Election
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of the Congolese main opposition party, was announced as the winner of the presidential elections. He gestures to his supporters at the party headquarters in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

Congo’s capital was calm Sunday with residents attending church after the Constitutional Court confirmed the presidential election victory of Felix Tshisekedi. It was not clear if the population would heed runner-up Martin Fayulu’s call for non-violent protests against the court ruling.

Tshisekedi said early Sunday that the court’s decision to reject claims of electoral fraud and declare him president was a victory for the entire country.

“It is Congo that won,” said Tshisekedi, speaking to his supporters after the court decision. “It is not the victory of one camp against another. I am engaged in a campaign to reconcile all Congolese. … The Congo that we are going to form will not be a Congo of division, hatred or tribalism. It will be a reconciled Congo, a strong Congo that will be focused on development, peace and security.”

Congo, Election
Martin Fayulu, runner-up in Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential election enters his car after delivering his appeal contesting the Congo’s National Independent Electoral Commission results at the constitutional court in Kinshasa. VOA

Supporters of his UDPS party celebrated the victory into the early morning hours, in motorcade processions through the capital’s main streets.

But Fayulu’s declaration that he is Congo’s “only legitimate president” and call for the Congolese people to peacefully protest against what he called a “constitutional coup d’etat” threatened to keep the country in a political crisis that has been simmering since the Dec. 30 elections.

The court turned away Fayulu’s request for a recount of the vote, affirming Tshisekedi won with more than 7 million votes, or 38 percent, and Fayulu received 34 percent.

The court judgment, released in the early hours of Sunday, said Fayulu offered no proof to back his assertions that he had won easily based on leaked data attributed the electoral commission. It also called unfounded another challenge filed by Fayulu that objected to the electoral commission’s last-minute decision to bar some 1 million voters from the election over a deadly Ebola virus outbreak.

Congo, President, Election
Supporters of Felix Tshisekedi, Democratic Republic of Congo’s opposition politician declared winner of the presidential poll, sing and dance ahead of the Constitutional Court final decision on the presidential results, in Kinshasa, Jan. 19, 2019. VOA

Fayulu and his supporters have also, outside the court, alleged an extraordinary backroom deal by outgoing President Joseph Kabila to rig the vote in favor of Tshisekedi.

“It’s a secret for no one inside or outside of our country that you have elected me president,” with 60 percent of the votes, Fayulu said in his statement. “I now consider myself the only legitimate president of the DRC.”

Fayulu urged Congolese to take to the streets to peacefully protest. Neither Congolese nor the international community should recognize Tshisekedi, nor obey him, Fayulu added.

Congo’s government on Sunday called Fayulu’s statements “irresponsible.”

“We consider it an irresponsible statement that is highly politically immature. I do not think he has understood the issues that are happening and at the regional level and at the global level with the Democratic Republic of Congo and that’s a shame,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Congo, President, Election
Felix Tshisekedi, leader of Congolese main opposition the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party, attends a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 23, 2018. VOA

The largely untested Tshisekedi, son of the late, charismatic opposition leader Etienne, is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 22. The government is expected to resign in the coming days, and the new National Assembly will be installed on Jan. 26 with a small group of members who will then validate the 500 deputies, the majority of whom belong to Kabila’s Common Front for Congo party.

Many worried that the court’s rejection of the appeal could lead to greater instability in a nation that already suffers from rebels, communal violence and an Ebola outbreak.

“It might produce some demonstrations, but it won’t be as intense as it was in 2017 and 2018,” said Andrew Edward Tchie, research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza promptly congratulated the new president-elect in a Tweet on Sunday.

“Through a fully organized electoral process without outside influence and the wisdom of President Kabila, the (hash)RDC has just defended its dignity and sovereignty. The (hash)Burundi congratulates the elected President, HE Felix A. Tshisekedi and the step taken by the Congolese people,” he said.

Congo, President, Election
Congo opposition candidate Martin Fayulu greets supporters as he arrives at a rally in Kinshasha, Congo, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

The Southern African Development Community on Sunday congratulated President-elect Tshisekedi and Congo for conducting elections in a peaceful manner “despite the security and logistical challenges.” The group had last week suggested a recount and a possible unity government.

The 16-nation regional bloc called “upon all Congolese to accept the outcome, and consolidate democracy and maintain a peaceful and stable environment following the landmark elections.” The body called on “all stakeholders to support the President-elect and his government in maintaining unity, peace and stability; and attaining socio-economic development in the DRC. SADC looks forward to a peaceful transfer of power to the President-elect.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli also sent congratulations on Twitter.

In addition to congratulating Tshisekedi on his election as Congo’s next president, Magufuli praised the people of Congo. “I beseech you to maintain peace,” he wrote.

Also Read: Felix Tshisekedi Gets Declared As The President Of Congo

All of the election results, not just the presidential ones, had been widely questioned after Kabila’s ruling coalition won a majority in legislative and provincial votes while its presidential candidate finished a distant third.

Despite this, Congo, a country of 80 million people, rich in the minerals key to smartphones around the world, is moving close to its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. (VOA)